What To Do Without Delgado

If you haven’t heard, Carlos Delgado is having hip surgery and will be out at least two months.

First of all, if his injury is so severe it requires surgery, what in the world was the thought process in keeping him off the disabled list for a week? How do you go from a day-to-day injury to requiring surgery in a matter of hours? Only the Mets …

More importantly, who will play first base in Delgado’s absence? Someone on the current 25-man roster? A player inside the farm system? Someone outside the organization?

Here is a short list of possibilities …

Current Roster

Fernando Tatis

Tatis is the favorite, since he has proven to be adequate in the field and Jerry Manuel has been trying to find a spot in the lineup for his bat all season. It wouldn’t be the worst choice, especially if he can go on a hot streak like he did last July.

Jeremy Reed

Just like that, Reed went from no MLB games at first base to looking like a Gold Glover. If he can continue to hit .350+, run the bases well, and display a flashy glove, he’d be a fine interim replacement — or at least part of a platoon. But what are the chances he’ll continue to hit .350?

Danny Murphy

Murphy has been taking grounders at first for two weeks now, and many scribes have excitedly reported that the youngster looks more comfortable there than he does in left field (which isn’t saying much). Jerry Manuel promised we’d see Murphy at first in San Francisco, but he failed to tell us in which year. Perhaps he meant a trade was in the works? Until we see if he can handle the position, it’s hard to make a judgment. And, it doesn’t help that he’s been struggling with the bat recently.

Gary Sheffield

There has been not a squeak about Sheff at 1B. Apparently, it is not an option.

Minor Leagues

Wily Mo Pena

Pena was signed off the scrap heap as a low-cost, low-risk, high-reward type of guy. Based on past history, he has, potentially, more raw power than anyone else in the Mets’ organization. An outfielder by trade, there were some reports that he’s been working out at 1B. At this point, though, it doesn’t matter — Pena is hitting .229 with one homer in his first 48 at-bats, and not showing any reason to be promoted yet.

Mike Lamb

Lamb is a veteran big leaguer who has experience at both infield corner positions, but, like Pena, has shown little reason for a callup. He’s hitting .167 through his first 72 at-bats.

Nick Evans

After a sparkling spring, Evans had an absolutely awful start to his AAA season with Buffalo. You’ve heard of the “Mendoza Line”? Well he was hitting around the “Bob Buhl Line”. (Buhl was a pitcher from the 50s and 60s with who hit .089 in 15 years as a big leaguer.) Evans has reportedly been demoted to AA Binghamton, so a promotion to the big club seems unlikely.

Lucas Duda

Duda is the starting first baseman for the AA B-Mets, and is hitting .293 through 33 games. The big 23-year-old has the look of a power hitter, but has yet to realize such potential. He batted .263 for Port St. Lucie last year, with 11 HRs in 483 ABs. He doesn’t yet project as an MLB first baseman, and to promote him now makes little sense.

Ike Davis

Currently hitting .292 for Port St. Lucie, Davis is a year younger than Duda but just as big and just as far away from Major League action.

External Possibilities

Nick Johnson

The Nationals would love to move Adam Dunn from the outfield to first base, and have Josh Willingham available at the position as well — not to mention Dmitri Young, who, depending on his mother’s health, could be ready to join the team in a few weeks. With the Nats going nowhere fast, and Johnson a valuable chip, one would think he’d be available. The 30-year-old has been injury prone but would be a nice fit at what could be a reasonable price. One would guess the Mets could acquire him for a package of youngsters headlined by either Dillon Gee and/or Nick Evans.

Aubrey Huff

Like Johnson, Huff is on a team that is going nowhere in 2009 and is expendable. He’s also a free agent after this season, so the Orioles will be looking to deal him at some point between now and the end of July. However, he’s likely to cost more in players than Johnson; Gee and Evans would be a starting point. The Mets probably would not want to give up the talent necessary from their already barren farm system.

Mike Jacobs

Now that would be ironic — Jacobs returning to fill in for the man he was traded for. It’s not completely out of the realm of possibility, though it would probably cost Dan Murphy, Bobby Parnell, or Jonathan Niese — and it’s doubtful the Mets would part with any of those three in return for Jacobs.

Ryan Shealy

Shealy was supposed to be the Royals’ starting first baseman in each of the last three years, but never quite lived up to the expectations he set as a slugging minor leaguer. The 29-year-old is currently hitting .345 for AAA Omaha, and is now blocked by Billy Butler. If he can be had for a package of fringe prospects, he might be worth taking a shot on.

Hank Blalock

Blalock is a longshot, and might cost the Mets more than they’re willing to part with. The 28-year-old is blocked at 3B by Michael Young and at 1B by Chris Davis, so he’s toiling as the DH and is struggling with a .237 average. In the last year of his contract, and hitting the way he is, Blalock could come cheap, and in the past has shown he can be an impact hitter. A change in scenery, a regular spot in the order, and the motivation of being in a contract year could be an ideal combination. Would the Rangers be silly enough to take Oliver Perez, straight up? Hey, we can dream.

Frank Catalanotto

Too late. The Brewers signed him to a minor-league deal about a week ago. Otherwise, he might have been a nice pickup. Not ideal, but a versatile player with some pop and a lot of grit.

Chad Tracy

Tracy is struggling mightily to reach the Mendoza Line, but has shown the ability to hit for average and power in the past. Injuries have derailed his career, but at 29 should still have the physical ability to play at his peak. With a $7M club option for 2010, he’ll likely be cut loose at the end of this year. That and the fact that the Diamondbacks are in dire straits would suggest that they’d be listening to any and all offers.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. Walnutz15 May 19, 2009 at 9:14 am
    LOL — I think the most realistic Met options right now are internal candidates: Mike Lamb and (Say It Ain’t So) Wily Mo!!

    This team’ll be lucky to have Delgado back in 2 months. Unlike A-Rod, Delgado is going to be 37 in June….and we all know that Alex was on the quick-track.

    This was something we preached, ad nauseum, about over the winter. The possibility that Delgado could go down with an injury — coupled with — God forbid, an injury to one of the core players (what’s up with Reyes now? )…and the idea that Daniel Murphy would struggle during his 1st full year with the team?

    What foresight!….any idiot could have planned for this doomsday scenario.

    Not our upper management.

    Now that we’ve effectively seen this exact situation play out….it’ll be VERY INTERESTING to see which of the \role-players\ steps up, or if they’re even capable of doing so over an extended period.

    I’m not shocked by any of this — and the scramble to acquire a difference-maker now, knowing that it’ll have to be via trade (with God knows who involved), is comical.

    There were cost-effective options out there all winter…..and the Mets passed on them all.

    It will now cost in terms of players….and the Mets will be just fine with it.

    AMAZIN’ is right.

  2. joe May 19, 2009 at 10:56 am
    Were there a number of outfielder / first basemen with strong bats available this winter? Oh yeah, there were. Huh. Well, the Mets were set with Fernando Tatis and Marlon Anderson, so there you go.

    I’m waiting for Olmedo Saenz to re-surface 😉

  3. isuzudude May 19, 2009 at 10:57 am
    Very well said, ‘nutz. This offseason the Mets were perfectly content to “fix” the bullpen and let all the other pieces of the team fall where they may. Well, as if on cue, the injury bug of bad karma has struck, and the Mets are left with no quality depth or reasonable solutions.

    Though, as far as 1B goes, who knew they’d be this far up a tree looking for Delgado’s replacement. Delgado getting hurt was a very real possibility, and has been ever since he was traded for prior to 2006. And if he’s had this hip ailment for years already, why he never got it taken care of during one of the previous offseasons is beyond me. But, perhaps envisioning a Delgado injury, the Mets re-signed Tatis rather quickly this offseason, knowing he could be an admirable short-term fill-in. They also had Nick Evans, who arguably swung the hottest bat in spring training this year, waiting in the wings. Who knew he’d completely fall off the map in Buffalo. Michel Abreu, Rob Mackowiak, Mike Lamb, Wily Mo, and Javier Valentin are all a part of the organization as well, and have been known to handle a 1st baseman’s mitt from time to time. To me, that seems like ample backup for a guy in Delgado who has seen 500 atbats in every year with the team in 3 years – i.e., he’s not known for missing large chunks of playing time.

    As far as the interim goes, I say it’s Tatis’ job to lose. I would not make any trades because Delgado SHOULD be back, and he’s not going to be a bench player when he returns, even if he only hits .230. Just the way it is. So there’s no need to go trading a package of valued prospects for a 2-month replacement, IMO. If they trade for anybody, I’d say it have to be for a guy who can play another position when Delgado comes back, and someone who would be a guarenteed better bet than Tatis. Otheriwse, it’s pointless. I’d rather sink with Tatis and a returning Delgado than swim with less propects and 2 full-time 1B.

  4. joe May 19, 2009 at 11:57 am
    I don’t know about Mackowiak, Valentin, et al qualifying as “ample” backup. “Voluminous”, yes, but as far as quality goes … eh, not so much.

    I think the point is that we reviewed many, many, quality, veteran bats who would have teamed with Tatis on the bench, and right now would have been very useful.

    As for replacing Delgado, two months is a pretty long time, and there’s a distinct possibility that Delgado could be out even longer. What if it’s 80 games? It doesn’t make sense to find a capable replacement for half a season?

    The way I look at it, Delgado is gone after ’09. If there’s a guy the Mets can pick up this year to fill in, and possibly be the starter next year (Johnson? Tracy? Blalock? Shealy? Jacobs?) then it makes perfect sense to make a trade. They’re going to have to acquire one during the offseason regardless, so it would make sense to bring someone in now and see if he can handle NYC.

  5. isuzudude May 19, 2009 at 12:29 pm
    “They’re going to have to acquire one during the offseason regardless, so it would make sense to bring someone in now and see if he can handle NYC.”

    That depends on whether or not you think Murphy is the 1B of the future, which many think he is. It’s difficult to pencil Murphy in as the 1B for 2010 when he hasn’t even played a game at the position yet, but clearly Murphy isn’t cut out for the OF and he’s not going to start at 2B until 2012 when Castillo comes off the books, so 1B looks like his only option. There’s no doubt Murphy is a slick hitter and a hard-nosed player, which is nice to have, and he’s young so he has a chance of still getting better. I’m sure by next season the Mets want to give Murphy an everyday job and not leave him as a bench/platoon player, so if a 1st baseman is acquired then Murphy loses his chance. Unless, of course, the Mets trade Murphy in a package for a 1B/OF, but with Murphy’s upside that player is going to have to be signed beyond this season and cannot be mega-expensive. There are a lot of sensitive areas about this team right now, and parting with MORE young players to add a guy who may or may not help in the long run may not be the wisest thing to do at this juncture.

  6. joe May 19, 2009 at 12:52 pm
    C’mon, do we really believe Dan Murphy is the first baseman of the future? His average is now under .270. Considering his glove, his running speed, and lack of power, he’s not an everyday player unless he’s hitting AT LEAST .310-.320.

    You wouldn’t give up a fringe prospect for two years of Nick Johnson? I’m not saying unload the system again for a rental. I’m suggesting the Mets can explore the market. I don’t think you have to trade F-Mart to get Hank Blalock or Conor Jackson, for example, and either could be a long-term solution.

  7. isuzudude May 19, 2009 at 1:53 pm
    Nick Johnson is a free agent after this season, so I’m not sure how you automatically get 2 years from him. He’s also hitting .336 right now so I think he’d cost more than a fringe prospect – not because the Nats wouldn’t give him up, but because the Mets are going to have competition for his services. Additionally, why give up anything for Johnson when the Mets can float with Tatis/Delgado for the rest of 2009 and sign Johnson as a FA over the winter? Conor Jackson is a very nice talent, although off to a horrible start this year. However, his career numbers look eerily similar to what Murphy projects to be. Why trade for him when we already have a .290/15/70 guy in Murphy? Additionally, Jackson is cheap and isn’t a FA until 2012, so I doubt the D’backs would give up on him for anything other than a top prospect, or two. Hank Blalock has played all of 37 games at 1B in his career and has been hampered by major injuries in each of the past 3 seasons, so I doubt I’d be willing to meet Texas’ asking price for him. Not to mention he’s hitting .237 this year and is a career .244 hitter away from Arlington. He has bust written all over him. And this early in the season I don’t see players like Adrian Gonzalez, Aubrey Huff, or Victor Martinez being available, and anyone else on the potential fill-in list (Jacobs, Konerko, Shealy, etc) is either going to be too expensive to acquire for my taste or no better bet than Tatis.

    The jury’s out on whether Murphy can be the 1B of the future, but we’ll never find out if we don’t try. He’s a cheap option, a good talent with the chance of getting better, and a “gamer” in the making – which is something you’ve been hoping the Mets can acquire or develop for years. I think he deserves a chance, and the Mets would be well-suited to get max production out of 1B at a small cost and use the money freed up by the departing Delgado to beef up the SP or get a big-time catcher. If you agree that the knock on the Mets over the last few years has been patching a roster together filled with the overpaid and aging, and that the minor league system has been depleted to the point of submission, shouldn’t you be an advocate for keeping whatever prospects are left and giving the few young talents on the team a chance to be a starter? No matter if the Mets can make the playoffs as an 85-win team, if they make the postseason they’ll be gone in the blink of an eye, and if they trade more prospects in order to “win now,” they’ll only be in even worse shape for 2010. It’s high time to stop mortgaging the future just to see everything go down the drain again in September.

  8. joe May 19, 2009 at 3:11 pm
    ‘dude, I didn’t realize Johnson would be a FA. That should make him even easier to obtain, b/c he won’t be a Type A and give the Nats a pick.

    As for Murphy vs. Jackson: Jackson already has accomplished 15/75/.300 — and a .375 OBP to boot. Murphy “projects” to be that good? I’m not sure he’ll be better than 10/60/.275.

    Yes I prefer youth. But if unrealized youth can get more accomplished, slightly older youth, it is usually a good plan. i.e., Milledge for Church.

    Even getting a guy like Johnson is different from pinning your hopes on Moises Alou or El Duque.

    Right now the Mets have very little in AAA and AA. If they can somehow trade whatever is there for some ready-now talent, it should be explored.

    But yeah you’re right. May as well sit back and wait for Tatis to hit like July 2008 again, and/or Murphy to do what he did in 100 ABs last year. It could happen. If not then maybe Omir Santos can play 1B.

  9. mic May 20, 2009 at 8:03 pm

    Great debate. I think you all make great points. Couple of things;

    a. if Nick johnson comes in for say Jon Niese do you do that trade?

    b. Johnson is a gold glove caliber 1st baseman….ala Olerud…who could bring an elevated game to DW and Reyes as well as the OF and pitchers….note we are losing games on defense..

    c. Trade now and keep the picks…..Plus if Del gets back and Johnson is doing well trade him…. or just take the picks in FA….Omar HAS acquired players early and then dealt them later.

    d. As i alluded to earlier Nick has several dimensions…the glove being a highly touted one. the boost to the fragile ego of the Mets right now could be timely.